After half a century,
every face looks like one I’ve seen before:
this one like that sweet girl from grade school;
that one like this teacher from college;
another like that actress…or waitress…or both;
or like my childhood dentist,
or high school crush.
I catch myself about to speak,
and then remember
they, too, would be several decades older, by now.
And after a quarter century in New York,
it’s rare a face looks completely new to me.
I’ve worked with, studied with,
learned from faces from every part of the globe.
I’ve seen almost every exotic facial structure
the Travel Channel might still be searching for
passing right outside my door.
I’ve tried their food.
I’ve danced in their street fairs.
I’ve learned how similar their faces can be.
I’ve seen so many faces
that each time I find a new one
I categorize it,
its country of origin,
its relation to others,
the blends of what I already know.
I could piece together police sketches
from the flipbook of parts from my past.
above the faces on the crowded sidewalk,
darkly lost in your own thoughts,
until you catch sight of me
and break into the smile
that you reserve for me alone,
like none I’ve seen before,
and none thereafter,
nor could I ever mistake
for anyone else’s
(for Bob, on his birthday 2013)